Australia is on just about every wanderluster’s bucket list, and if it isn’t on yours, it should be. Whether you want to dive in the Great Barrier Reef, explore the infamous outback, sample wine from some of the best regions on the planet, or learn to surf, there’s no better place to do it all than down under.
The only problem is that it’s not exactly a cheap place to visit. It usually requires an expensive plane ticket, and prices when you arrive might give you a bit of sticker shock (remember: This is a country where the minimum wage is $17.29).
But Australia is a backpacker’s paradise, and backpackers aren’t exactly known for having bulging wallets, so clearly Australia can be done on a budget. Here’s how to have the trip of a lifetime without breaking the bank.
It all starts with a sturdy backpack. This will hold your life for the next however many days/months you will be exploring Australia. You want it to be large enough to fit your essentials but small enough that you can carry it around without toppling over.
Packing is simple: Whatever doesn’t fit doesn’t come. Luckily, the weather in Australia tends to be hot and sunny. Leave your bulky sweaters and winter jackets behind, and bring on the sundresses, shorts, and bathing suits. Leave room for a few souvenir items to take home with you.
Your plane ticket will most likely be your greatest expense, so start looking as early as you can to nab the best prices.
It’s a long, long flight. See if you can break it up with some interesting multi-day layovers (Honolulu, anyone?) to get a little extra vacation for your buck and to break up the travel.
When it comes to saving money, hostels are the way to go. Use online hostel review sites to guide your selection; it may be worth an extra $5 a night to avoid bedbugs.
The good news is that there are tons of gorgeous, well-located hostels throughout Australia. From converted prisons (seriously) to quaint B&Bs, the variety of hostels means that no matter what kind of trip you’re after, you should be able to find relatively affordable options that suit your needs.
Two words: meat pies. Australian meat pies are a delicious, portable, and cost-efficient meal that you can get just about anywhere, from small town cafes to grocery stores to national chains. They’re the perfect quick meal for a backpacker; just be sure to pick up some veggies every so often to keep things balanced.
You’ll burn through your budget in no time if you go out to eat all the time, so hit up local grocery stores and use those hostel kitchens to prepare fresh, inexpensive meals. Don’t forget to pick up a few packs of Tim Tams, and ask a local to teach you about the Tim Tam Slam.
If you’re dying to splurge on a restaurant meal (kangaroo steak, anyone?), some larger cities offer cheaper early-bird restaurant deals. It’s the same delicious food but at a way lower price.
Bus tickets Australia is a big country. It’s huge—as in, it can take you days to get from one location to the next. Short-haul flights are the quickest way to get around, but taking the bus is an inexpensive option for traveling within a region, and Australia’s bus charter companies offer extensive, reliable service. Money-saving tip: If you’re a deep sleeper, book redeye tickets for longer trips. Not only will snoozing on the bus make time go by faster, but you’ll also save on a night of accommodation. For a trip like this, you’ll need a flexible hop-on, hop-off pass.
Excursions and activities
There is no shortage of activities in Australia, but if you say yes to everything, you’ll run out of money in only a few days. Before you book an excursion, get creative and see if there’s a cheaper way of doing it. For example, a cruise around Sydney Harbour is awesome, but taking a ferry will offer you the same views at a fraction of the price (time it with the sunset for some killer photo ops).
If you’re booking an activity through a salesperson at a hostel, don’t be afraid to negotiate. There’s often a little wiggle room, especially if you bundle activities or get a few other people to join in with you.
Australia may be a pricey country, but some of the best activities—playing in the surf, going on a hike, wandering the streets of a city—are free. You don’t need to spend a lot to get a lot out of it.
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